MALAYSIAN former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad today filed a lawsuit against the current Prime Minister Najib Razak over the 1MDB financial scandal, prompting critics to call it a “political gimmick.”
The lawsuit filed in Kuala Lumpur is the latest in a series of so-far unsuccessful attempts by the elderly statesman to dislodge Najib from office. It accuses Najib of abusing his powers to obstruct investigations into the 1MDB scandal and the RM2.6 billion that reportedly found its way into his personal accounts.
According to the Malay Mail Online, Mahathir’s lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla released the following statement:
“This suit is with regard to the tort of misfeasance in public office and tort of breach of fiduciaries in public office committed by Najib Razak in furtherance of his corrupt practice of carrying out various steps that were actively and deliberately taken in bad faith and with mala fide to obstruct, interfere, impede and derail the various investigations and inquiries which were being conducted by various legal enforcement agencies and statutory bodies pertaining to the allegation of the above.”
Here is what looks like the documentation of the suit:
— sharaff (@sharaff) March 23, 2016
The lawsuit demands that Najib pays RM2.6 billion – the exact amount allegedly deposited in Najib’s accounts through the scandal – in exemplary damages, and RM42 million in aggravated damages.
Joining Mahathir in his suit are two former members of Malaysia’s ruling party (Umno) and staunch critics of Najib – Khairuddin Abu Hassan and Anina Saadudin. Along with Mahathir and members of the Opposition, the duo signed a “Citizens’ Declaration” on 4th March that seeks the removal of Najib from office.
The lawsuit was quickly panned by senior government ministers. Minister of Communication and Multimedia Salleh Said Keruak slammed it as “desperate” and said Mahathir was “clutching at straws.”
“Tun Mahathir tried to topple the Prime Minister through UMNO. He failed. Tun Mahathir tried a parliamentary vote of no confidence. He failed. Now Tun Mahathir is trying to sue. His accusations are false, so he will fail yet again,” he wrote in a statement.
According to Astro Awani, Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan called it a “political gimmick” and asserted that Mahathir did not have the legal standing (or locus standi) to sue Najib.
However, Nur Jazlan was contradicted by a fellow MP and member of his own party, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who said that all taxpayers are entitled to seek legal recourse in the face of malfeasance by public officials.
“Anyone can sue ministers and public officials if they are not carrying out their responsibilities properly, such as if there was a misuse of power. We as ordinary citizens can sue. They are subject to legal action,” he said, reported the Malay Mail Online.
“As long as a person pays taxes, they have the right. They would have local standi.”
Tengku Razaleigh’s stance is significant – he was once Mahathir’s strongest rival and vied with him for the leadership of Umno.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman said she was “shocked but not surprised” by Mahathir’s lawsuit, reported Malaysiakini.